‘Frankie’s’ is an evening in a typical dive bar. It is raw, over the top and uproarious.
The 70-minute adult shows are co-presented by the Blue Room and Variegated Productions. They can be seen in the main theatre of the Blue Room in James Street, Northbridge nightly at 7.00 until 1st December.
Because the shows are unscripted, every night is different. To add to the interest, each evening a different ‘special guest’ joins the four main characters.
The shows have around 80 seats, with no room for expansion or standing, and so booking is essential, especially if there is a particular guest performer you wish to see.
The scene: a friendly bar that was once a top joint, but is now teetering on collapse.
The set: was designed by Bryan Woltjen (great to see you back), around an idea by Chloé Flockart. The walls have material ‘wallpaper’ coverings. Central stage – and the whole auditorium is the stage – is a working bar, with a glass and bottle rack suspended above the counter. The name ‘Frankie’ is written in flexible LED ribbon (?), looking like an old neon name sign. There are twenty small, round tables with chairs. At the other end of the room is a stage. The set is outstanding, and all of the tasteless kitsch props and drawings (Andrei Buters) brought a smile. The place really looks like a dive that has been there for decades. One of the doors into the theatre been converted into a kitchen serving hatch.
This set must have cost a lot of money, and taken a great deal of time to set up, so please buy a ‘Whipper Snapper’ drink and help the team get some of their money back.
Rhiannon Petersen’s lighting design was fabulous. The pendant lamps around the peripheral tables and the brass antique wall lamps had a warm incandescent glow. The fully lit, central bar even had minor touches such as illumination under the edge of the bar counter. There was sensitive lighting control, with good use of colour.
Every show is different, but there are a few, permanent ‘core’ characters. A motto for the night is selected from the dozens submitted by the audience on entering the theatre. This tip is written on the bar price blackboard. On the preview night, the show went something like this:-
Adam (Shane Adamczak) and Chelsea (Libby Klysz) are tending at the bar and clearing the tables. Seated at the bar counter is Matthew (St John Cowcher) a smart looking young man, but with disgusting habits. As Matthew is discussing his previous night’s conquests, a nerdy looking chap (Daniel Buckle) wanders in. He begins to tell the bar staff about his unusual hobby that he learnt in Damascia.
The room dims and an attractive singer (Esther Longhurst) starts the cabaret. She has a soft and romantic sounding voice as she sings her easy listening, jazz scat. She followed with a love song. The songs and accompanying music are all thought up on the moment, and yet the musicians and singer seem to mind read each other, as the music blends impeccably.
Into the bar comes Rob J Grant (Chris Isaacs – last night’s guest), who is a struggling actor, still famous for a brief appearance several years ago, and his diabolical catch phrase.
The Core Ensemble also included Sam Longley and Tegan Mulvany (who had a night off, celebrating her 30th birthday). Yes, the show is fantasy.
Each night there is a special guest artist, the selection include:- Nicola Bartlett, Chris Bedding, Tomás Ford, ‘Ofa Fotu, Andrea Gibbs, Paul Grabovac, Libby Hammer, Tim How, Djuna Lee, Joe Lui, hip-hop star Mathas, Gibson Nolte, Charlotte Otton, Tom Stokes and Mararo Wangai.
The musical accompaniment (Alwyn Nixon-Lloyd, Peter Lane Townsend, and Robert Woods) was played in front of the stage, with all sections of the orchestra, including percussion, being supplied by two keyboards.
I will be honest and say straight away that improvisation is not my favourite genre of humour. I always feel it appears contrived, forced, and false. If you feel the same, then come along, see this bunch, and become an enlightened reformed person as I was. When improvisation works, as it does here, it is hilarious.
These performers have been around for years, most are stand-up comics, and many are fine character actors. Because they have worked together for a decade, they know each other’s strengths, as well as their trigger points and weaknesses. The comedy was fast and unrelenting. Brilliant.
Director Libby Klysz has produced a first class, around show. Often comedians think that being funny is sufficient, and then you see a great set, lighting, music, and clever characters and you realise how clever comedy can be.
Could this show be up for the Blue Room’s prize winning ‘Set’, and the audience’s choice for ‘Most popular show of the year’?
Very funny indeed. Quite a unique idea, which I am sure with a little bit of tuning, would work well on TV. Congratulations to all.